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Nine Candidates Apply for Open Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Seat

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Pacific Park, Santa Monica PierHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 19, 2014 --Tom Larmore, a prominent land-use attorney and civic leader, is taking his first stab at public office as one of nine hopefuls vying for an open seat on the Santa Monica- Malibu School Board.

Thursday was the deadline to apply for the open seat left vacant when former Board member Ben Allen won election to the California state senate in November.

Included on the list of candidates is Ralph Mechur, who lost his bid for re-election November 4, coming in fifth place in the contest for four seats; Dr. Sion Roy, who is vice president of communications for the Santa Monica Democratic Club and heads the district’s health and safety committee, and Jennifer deNicola of Malibu Unites for Healthy Schools, a group pushing for new toxins testing at Malibu High School.

Also vying for the seat are Larry Droeger, Patricia Finer, David Hays and Jon Kean.  Another applicant, Kurt Schwengel, said Thursday he would withdraw his name.  Schwengel, a former Santa Monica High School baseball coach and a kindergarten teacher at Franklin Elementary School, said he was informed by the district that employees cannot serve on the board.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” said Schwengel, who sparked a controversy this summer when he protested that an opposing team had held illegal batting practice with Wiffle balls, causing a forfeiture. Following the uproar, he was replaced as coach.

The candidates will be interviewed publicly by the school board at its January 15 meeting. A decision is expected later in the month. The candidate will complete the remaining two years of Allen’s term of office.

Larmore,  a partner in Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, a law firm that handles development-related issues, said his commitment to local schools spurred his first attempt at holding public office.

“I strongly believe in public education,” Larmore said. “My children went through the public schools and my daughter taught” at the Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH).

In addition to membership in a variety of civic groups, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, Larmore sits on the district’s financial oversight committee.

Roy, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, said he and his wife moved to Santa Monica about four years ago and want to make it their permanent home. Both were products of public education, he said.

“I feel I can bring a different perspective,” Roy said.

Mechur, meanwhile, said that after seven years on the board, he feels he has much to offer.

“I bring a lot of experience and passion, and I know I have a lot of support in the community,” he said.

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